Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Dog Rotted On the Road and Other Great Beginnings

Dear Dead Beat,

I am rewriting a novel I wrote and am confused about my beginning. Any thoughts on how to begin a novel?"

Serial Rewriter.

Dear Serial Rewriter,

Dead Beat has a thought on everything and often something more. Begin your novel with a capital letter.

Okay, okay. Begin with a hook. I don't care if you are writing entertainment or that other literary thingy, but you better get your reader onto the second line. Taking this a step further: if one line must lead to another, then one paragraph must lead to another, and so on. Hooks, hooks, hooks.

"It was a bright sunny morning" becomes "it was not a bright sunny morning." "The dog trotted down the road" becomes "the dog rotted on the road."

Figure out what your beginning is trying to say, then make it say it loud and clear, upfront and in the very first sentence.

Best opening to a piece of fiction ever? Richard Ford, Rock Springs, short story called Great Falls: "This is not a happy story. I warn you."


nietzschean-ghost said...

Good advise Dead Beat,

On characters, I usually think that if you like a character, throw them into a tank full of sharks and then let them emerge stronger.

Anonymous said...

I think I get really bored by the over use of hooks. It can be over done, don’t you think? Sometimes everything and everyone in a novel are just too quirky. Are you still mentoring? What all does it involve?

Gerard Beirne said...

I agree Marcella, the overuse of hooks can be distracting. There is a fine balance here. Also the hooks do not have to be so obvious. We can learn to use them in a covert manner.

As for mentoring, yes, I am still doing that. Why don't you email me at

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